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ATC Projections - Overvalued and Undervalued Pitchers for 2022

walker buehler fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers starting pitchers MLB injury news

Fantasy baseball managers should be aware that Ariel Cohen's industry-leading ATC Projections are live for the 2022 season. That means it's time to dive into the numbers to see what the fantasy takeaway is for key players.

Keep in mind that projections aren't meant to be viewed as predictions. They encapsulate the most likely outcome based on various statistical factors. There's no way to fully account for injuries, COVID, or other intangible factors. That said, these projections go a long way toward determining how we should view individual players on draft day.

I recently covered hitters who may be overvalued or undervalued based on ATC projections. Now, it's time to do the same for pitchers. I'm sticking to starters for the obvious reason that reliever roles are extremely volatile, so projections for bullpen arms should be taken with a grain of salt. I'll also ignore wins in this equation because you really shouldn't be chasing that category on draft day. Instead, let's focus on ratios, strikeouts, and workload.

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Walker Buehler

2022 ATC Projections: 3.56 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 198 K, 192 IP
2021 MLB Statline: 2.47 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 212 K, 207.2 IP

This one shouldn't be surprising if you've already read Ariel's article regarding risk assessment in projection systems. Buehler is specifically highlighted because his projection might confuse baseball fans who are aware that he finished with the third-best ERA among qualified starters and was fourth in Cy Young voting last season.

Here's the fundamental issue, explained succinctly by Ariel himself.

...in every season since 2018 – most of his earned run estimators are not only higher than his ERA … they are much higher. Last year’s 2.47 ERA was over a run lower than both of the corresponding xFIP and SIERA indicators. A six tenths of a run career difference between ERA and SIERA cannot sustain indefinitely.

It's possible that he continues to be one of those players that manages to perform better than his projections. If his ERA does go up by .6 to make up for the difference between his career ERA and SIERA, that still puts him right around the 3.00 mark and among the better starters in the league. There isn't much reason to worry with Buehler but be aware there is a reason he is still behind Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Corbin Burnes, at least in my rankings.


Jack Flaherty

2022 ATC Projections: 3.71 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 172 K, 160 IP
2021 MLB Statline: 3.22 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 85 K, 78.1 IP

One of the toughest pitchers to gauge properly on draft day, we have ace potential with bullpen downside. Flaherty's fantasy stock went through the roof after a blazing end to 2019 where he looked like an ace in the making. A disappointing 2020 followed by an injury-plagued 2021 have put him in the no man's land where you don't want to pull the trigger too soon or let him slip too far.

If you believe in his ratios projected over a full season's worth of innings, he could be a steal. A deeper look under the hood reveals some causes for concern, though.

His 11.6% swinging-strike rate was the lowest of his career and he got by with a .233 BABIP. The ATC projections actually reflect some optimism because he greatly outperformed his 3.92 SIERA last season. He's a talented pitcher but consistency is a big issue.

Flaherty's strikeout prowess will come into play more if he can put together something resembling an SP1 workload. Nick Mariano's CUTTER projections have Flaherty pitching 180 innings and posting 203 strikeouts. Surely, the upside is that of a fantasy SP1 but even if health is on his side, expect an ERA closer to 4.00 than 3.00.


Blake Snell

2022 ATC Projections: 3.79 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 175 K, 145 IP
2021 MLB Statline: 4.20 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 170 K, 128.2 IP

Snell only accumulated 128 2/3 innings pitched in 2021 because he was brought along slowly to start the year, lasting more than five innings in just two of his first 11 starts. He then missed the last three weeks of the season with a groin injury. ATC expects a small bump up to 145 IP while Steamer is more optimistic at 158 IP and Nick Mariano's CUTTER projections go up to 162 IP. That discrepancy shows in the various K totals allotted to him, as ATC says 175 but CUTTER gives him 199.

We already know Snell's upside - Cy Young winner and bona fide ace. He's not yet 30-years-old and should be in a great situation to succeed with a favorable pitcher's park on a contending team. There may not be a drastic difference between his output for this season and last season but he seems to be getting discounted way too much in drafts.


Marcus Stroman

2022 ATC Projections: 4.01 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 142 K, 175 IP
2021 MLB Statline: 3.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 158 K, 179 IP

Never shy about speaking his mind, I'm sure Mr. Stroman would have some choice words about his forecast for 2022. Although Mets fans would have loved to keep Stroman around, he signed with the Cubs instead. That represents almost no change in park factor and not much difference in terms of run support, sadly. Stroman's projected ratios all take a hit due to the simple law of regression, though.

Stroman's 21.6% K% last year was the highest of his career but that's still low compared to league average and makes him more dependent on batted-ball outcomes. His .286 BABIP and 3.95 SIERA suggest he could see a decline in his ratios, especially since he also outperformed his career marks last year. He has always been good at limiting home runs, so that is a factor that could keep him on the lower end of his projections. Ultimately, the lack of strikeouts and probable lack of wins cause any drop in ERA or WHIP to be a deal-breaker in terms of drafting him as a top-50 SP.


Eduardo Rodriguez

2022 ATC Projections: 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 185 K, 177 IP
2021 MLB Statline: 4.74 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 185 K, 157.2 IP

Not too many starters can gain a full run over their previous year's ERA but that's what ATC sees for E-Rod. In this case, moving to Comerica Park and facing AL Central opponents instead of the AL East will work in his favor. It's more than that, however, as projections don't tend to shift as much due to park factors or proposed schedules because there are so many variables at play.

In Rodriguez's case, he's a pitcher coming off a career-best 3.65 SIERA and 20.4% K-BB% yet ended up with a career-worst 4.74 ERA. A .363 BABIP and a career-low 68.9% strand rate are the obvious culprits. As someone who is excellent at limiting hard contact, ranking in the 90th percentile or higher in average exit velocity three of his past five seasons, Rodriguez will benefit from the move to a pitcher-friendly park and division.

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